A Real-life Feral Child?

Dogs have often played the role of a rescuer. While foraging for food, this stray dog found an abandoned infant and carried her to safety over a busy road and barbed wire fence.

(AP Photo/Sayyid Azim)

August 1, 2006 | Post Archive

All sorts of atrocities have been committed against children, and the plight of Oxana Malaya of the Ukraine is certainly the result of one such atrocity. Last month the Telegraph ran a story on Malaya, a 23-year-old woman who spent her formative years living among a pack of dogs and exhibits many canine behaviors such as barking and walking on all fours. Malaya is what's known as a feral child, also commonly known as a "wild child" or "wolf child."

The article tells how Malaya became a feral child:

The story goes that, when she was three, her indifferent, alcoholic parents left her outside one night and she crawled into a hovel where they kept dogs. No one came to look for her or even seemed to notice she was gone, so she stayed where there was warmth and food - raw meat and scraps - forgetting what it was to be human, losing what toddler's language she had and learning to survive as a member of the pack. A shameful five years later, a neighbour reported a child living with animals. When she was found, at the age of eight in 1991, Oxana could hardly speak and ran around on all fours barking, mimicking her carers. Though she must have seen humans at a distance, and seems occasionally to have entered the family house like a stray, they were no longer her species: all meaningful life was contained in a kennel.

The article goes on to explain that there is, unfortunately, no official documentation of when Malaya was discovered by authorities. Information about that time remains purely anecdotal, so it's difficult to accurately determine the circumstances – how often Malaya returned to the house or ate the dogs’ scraps, et cetera. Such a lack of documentation certainly leaves room for skeptics to do what they do best. But the fact remains that nobody can do anything but speculate. What we do know is how Malaya lives and operates in the world today, which is evidence of her severe neglect (whatever form that actually took).

Oxana Malaya now lives in a home for mentally disabled patients. The institution is in part a farm where Malaya takes care of the cows. Because of the severe neglect she experienced in her formative years, Malaya has a stunted intellectual capacity equivalent to that of a 6-year-old. According to the telegraph, there are only 100 known cases of feral children in the world. But from my vantage point, that even one could exist is absolutely shocking. (link via Boing Boing)